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Ridley had asked for Konstantin’s opinion on several things today in regard to training, and that made sense since Konstantin had a lot of experience as a tracker, a guard, and practical application in real life. Since Förening, the two had seemed to get along well, and Ridley appeared to trust Konstantin’s judgment.

I’d had no input on what was happening today. Konstantin, Ridley, and Tilda actually all outranked me (discounting the fact that Konstantin and I had been exiled, of course). But that meant that while Ridley, Tilda, and Baltsar had to dress in uniforms like commanding officers, and the four of them had to worry and decide what everyone needed to focus on, I just got to get down and dirty.

I was in my tank top and yoga pants, sweating and fighting with whomever I could. And honestly, it felt amazing. In the chaos of everything around me, training in the gym was the one area I could always count on. This was the first time in a long time I’d had a chance to really work off all the aggression I had about feeling so powerless against Mina and Viktor Dålig.

So today, as I punched another one of Tilda’s recruits in the jaw, I couldn’t help but smile. It felt great to be back.

“Bryn!” Tilda shouted. “You’re not supposed to be making contact, remember? This is just training. You don’t want to break all the soldiers before they go to battle.”

“Right. Sorry. I got a little overzealous.” I waved at her, but by the look in her eyes, I knew that wasn’t good enough.

She walked over to me, the trainees parting around her. “That’s the fourth time I’ve called you out on it. We’ve been going at this all day. Why don’t you take five?”

“No, I’m good. I don’t need it.”

“Bryn.” She looked at me severely, and I realized it wasn’t a suggestion. “Take a break.”

“Fine,” I said because there was no point in arguing with her.

I apologized to the guy I’d hit, then I turned and walked away. I tried not to storm off, despite my irritation. But both Konstantin and Ridley turned to look back at me, their eyes questioning. I just forced a smile and hurried on my way.

At the end of the ballroom were two large doors, and I pushed them both with my hands as hard as I could, blowing off a bit of steam. They flew open, and I heard a deep voice rumble in pain.

As the doors swung closed, I looked over to see that I had hit someone with the door. He straightened up, looking down at me with dazzling blue eyes, the thin gills under his jawline flaring when he exhaled. The chandelier directly above us was out, and his broad shoulders cast an ominous shadow over me from the light at the end of the hall.

It was the newly reappointed King, Mikko Biâelse. This was the first time I’d seen him since I’d been implicated in his younger brother’s death, and he did not look happy to see me.



Bryn Aven,” Mikko said in a voice that rumbled like thunder. Linnea had once told me that Mikko was painfully shy, and I found that so strange. With his striking good looks, rather imposing size, and a voice like Odin, I’d never met anybody else who had a presence like his. He looked like he’d been created to be King.

I swallowed hard before replying with, “Your Highness,” and bowing.

“There’s no need for that.” He looked uncomfortable for a moment, then folded his arms over his chest. “I heard that I have you to thank for my freedom.”

“I . . . I, uh, that was more Marksinna Lisbet,” I stammered in surprise. His words sounded kind, but he looked like he wouldn’t mind snacking on my bones for breakfast.

“She said that you swayed Baltsar into action,” he said. “While I was incarcerated, Linnea told me that you never stopped believing in me and fighting for my innocence. She insisted that you were our greatest ally.”

“I . . .” I didn’t know how to reply to that. It was an exaggeration, but there was some truth to it, so I said simply, “I just did what I thought was right, sire.”

“It’s unfortunate how rare it is to find someone who will do what’s right.”

He turned his attention toward the ballroom doors. A sliver of bright light spilled through the thin gap between the doors into the darkness of the hall, making a line across Mikko’s face as he peered inside. Even out in the hall, Tilda could easily be heard, shouting her commands.

The King had apparently come to watch his new army training, and with his attention back on that and off me, now would be a perfect time for me to slip away. I could go down the hall, get a drink of water, and cool off.

But I hesitated, and it caused him to look back at me. “Is there something I can do for you, Bryn?”

“I wanted to say that I’m sorry about your brother,” I said finally.

He sighed heavily. “So am I.” His normally hard expression softened, disillusionment and sadness wearing down on his features. “And I’m sorry that you got pulled into that mess. Linnea filled me in on what happened, and I appreciate you acting as honorably as you did.”

“Thank you,” I said, stunned to hear Mikko actually thanking me for my involvement in his brother’s death.

“I do wish that Kennet had been able to come to me with his concerns instead of taking matters to into his own hands.” He turned his eyes to the ceiling, and his exasperation gave way to anger. “But that’s my father’s doing. He always said that a real man would take what he wanted. Kennet was kinder than that, or at least he would’ve been without Father’s influence.”